Optometrist? Developmental Optometrist? Why? Who? What’s the difference?

Optometrist? Developmental Optometrist? Why? Who? What’s the difference?

Optometrist or Developmental Optometrist?

At Clarendon Vision, we often talk to patients and families about the role a Developmental Optometrist can play in eye health. In this issue we dig into the differences to help you make the best choice for your family’s eye care.

Vision exams are a familiar process to most people. Cover this eye, read those letters on that bottom line if you can, what number do you see in this page of splotches of color? Optometrists perform 85% of comprehensive eye exams in the United States. There are about forty thousand optometrists in practice in the U.S. as of 2012. If you’ve had a vision exam anytime in the last few years, odds are high that you have seen an optometrist.

Definition of Optometrist (OD):
“An optometrist is a health service provider who is involved primarily with vision problems. Optometrists are specifically educated and trained by an accredited optometry college in a four year course, but have not attended medical school. They are state licensed to examine the eyes and to determine the presence of vision problems. Optometrists determine visual acuity and prescribe spectacles, contact lenses and eye exercises.”

A typical eye exam with an optometrist is going to cover matters such as visual acuity via tests that establish whether you can see clearly at 20 feet. (Note: We’re going to discuss the origin of the 20/20 vision chart in a future article, so stay tuned!)

For some people, their vision problems aren’t strictly acuity-based, and they have no eye disease yet still have vision challenges. What can they do when their vision exam results in a clear bill of health or a prescription for corrective lenses for acuity, yet they still have issues?

A functional exam with a developmental optometrist may be the answer. Where an optometrist concerns themselves with acuity, per the College of Optometrists in Vision Development or COVD, the governing and board certification for developmental optometrists and vision therapists, a developmental optometrist focuses on:

  • Behavioral and developmental vision care

  • Vision therapy

  • Neuro-optometric rehabilitation

“These specialized vision care services develop and enhance visual abilities and correct many vision problems in infants, children, and adults. Vision care provided by all COVD members is based on the principle that vision can be developed and changed. Infants are not born with fully developed visual abilities and that good vision is developed through a learned process.”

A developmental optometrist will conduct a functional eye exam to look beyond just acuity/clarity, and look for the patient’s ability to use their eyes to receive information, process it, and to efficiently use that information.

What are some examples of things a developmental optometrist will look for?
A developmental optometrist will check for tracking, the ability of the eyes to smoothly go from left to right across the page, going on to the second line without losing place and without skipping a line or getting stuck on same line. Another example of tracking is being able to align digits properly when doing math. A child who has a visual tracking issue may be making mistakes due to misaligned digits in math. They may be able to do simple equations in their heads but as math content increases in complexity, they may suddenly seem to have an issue with math.

Another example of something a developmental optometrist will look for is eye teaming ability. How well can a person’s two eyes work as a coordinated team? If that skill is deficient, a child may see double or it may look to them like words are overlapping or moving on the page or popping up from the page.

We will explore the differences between learning disabilities and vision issues in a future article, but if you thought to yourself that this sounds like what children with dyslexia report, you’re correct. Some children with dyslexia may have an undiagnosed vision issue that a development optometrist can identify in a functional exam. Could the dyslexia symptoms be entirely caused by an eye teaming issue? That question is a complex one best answered in consultation with your child’s developmental optometrist. The College of Optometrists in Vision Development has a great quality of life survey you can take to help you assess whether you or your child’s life is being negatively impacted by vision challenges. More resources can be found here.

Perhaps you’ve seen various eye care specialists over the years and have determined you’ll just have to live with that nagging eye issue. Maybe your child isn’t doing as well in school as you know he or she can do and you have an inkling that something else may be going on with his or her vision. Perhaps you want to rule out vision issues while in the course of assessing learning differences with your child. Any of these reasons can be a great reason to schedule a functional exam or a comprehensive eye exam with a developmental optometrist. At Clarendon Vision, the optometrists routinely screen all patients for functional eye issues and can recommend further testing for those who demonstrate challenges. Consider making an appointment today.

Here at Clarendon Vision we have been providing vision guidance and vision therapy since 2002. With so many years in practice, we’ve developed our expertise in numerous ways to bring the best vision possible to you or your child. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, please contact us at (630) 323-7300 or request an appointment online.

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